Christians and Segregation Part 5: The New Testament’s argument against Segregation within the Church

Last time, I dealt with the arguments raised by those who pretend that Christianity is compatible with segregation, and pointed out where those arguments are flawed. Today, we will end this series with a counter argument.

It might not make sense to suggest that such a thing is possible, after all New Testament does not discuss anything that would correspond to segregation outside of the Church, Paul and the apostles seemed uninterested in reforming or changing the civil societies outside the church, and focused on building the civil society within the Church instead. And yet, as a Christian segregation within the church is precisely the question we should be focused on.

The great goal God has for the Church, according to Romans 15 8-13 is that all the nations will come to know God, this would of course be difficult if there were no missionary efforts, and however one might cavil, missionary efforts are, by being cross cultural, anti-segregationist. This means most racist arguments (such as only one particular race can be saved, or that some ethnic groups are less than human) misses the entire point of the gospel, itself.

But, Kinists in particular, and other groups in other senses might very well argue that starting churches in a community is, of course, a cross cultural ministry, but it is a temporary matter until the church in a new culture is able to stand on its own two feet.

And yet, the first century church was faced with a question of segregation, and it was rejected. At Antioch, Jewish believers from Jerusalem came to Antioch, and by segregating themselves from the gentile believers, started a major controversy, and this included Peter, who began to follow their example. Paul, then rebuked Peter (Galatians 2:11-14); Paul is clear, Peter’s self-segregation from the gentiles was an act of hypocrisy,[1] and therefore a betrayal of the gospel itself (Galatians 2:15-21).

Therefore, as a follower of Christ, and student of Scripture it becomes clear: Christians who support segregation are hypocrites – or to use my terminology from elsewhere, inconsistent monsters.

            [1] The passage makes it clear that the agreement was not doctrinal as many modern “scholars” have suggested since the 19th century, otherwise, Paul’s language makes little sense; Peter is accused of playacting and hypocrisy not heresy. Additionally, this theory does not account for Peter’s eating with the gentiles previously. This is why the modern pseudoscholarly tendency to “read between the lines” in the work with the text by modern unbelieving scholarship is a faulty direction for the Church.

Christianity and Segregation part 4: Arguments for Segregation from Scripture

Over the last two pieces, we’ve discussed Christian groups who support segregation. After discussing the basis for their support, I want to address the two basic Biblical arguments raised by Christians who claim to be segregationists.

Argument 1: Old Testament discussions of Intermarriage
Many segregationists look at the various arguments about Jews marrying those from the nations around them as an argument about mixing ethnicity. The problem is, this misses the very point of why Israel was told not to intermarry with the other nations. Deuteronomy 7:4, however, explains that the reason for this prohibition was not related to ethnicity, but to religion: because intermarriage with the nations around Israel would lead them away from the worship of the True God. Secondarily, both Moses and Joseph married non-semites.

For the Christian in the modern age, the warnings about intermarriage in the Old Testament should be understood not to be an argument against marrying someone from a different ethnic background, but as an argument against marrying someone who does not share the Christian faith.

Argument 2: Acts 17:25-27
This passage has often been misquoted by segregationists, arguing that God has created natural boundaries between different ethnic groups (which they trace back to Babel). The problem is that their exegesis ignores the point Paul is making, which is God’s sovereignty in history, not the enforcement of boundaries. That is, as human beings, we mark out our territory, we speak for example of the Roman Empire as the territory that Rome controlled over a historical period of time. Paul’s point was that this empire and previous ones were ordained and allowed by God; God is in control of history and uses it so that men will seek Him.

The problem of course for segregationists arguing that Acts 17:26 enforces segregation is the reference to God’s also setting their times; the reference to the times is grammatically parallel to the discussion of boundaries. We would of course not suggest that we need to invent time travel to force different ethnic groups to move to different epochs of history, but this would be precisely what would be demanded if we accepted the segregationists argument.

Christianity and Segregation Part 3: Modern Groups

Last time around, we dealt with discussions of older Christian segregationists, demonstrating where these positions are coming from, and why the basis’ suggested are poor. Today, I want to discuss some of the more current movements.

  1. Premillennial arguments against interracial marriage

Before someone attempts to suggest that I am making a false accusation against premillennial believers or dispensationalists, let me state for the record I am a mild dispensationalist, and both premillennial and hold to a pretribulational rapture. Premillenialism is not precisely new to the twentieth and twenty-first century (as some falsely allege), but the there was a major resurgence of the twentieth and twenty-first century. During this period popular forms often made missteps, including arguments that interracial marriage was building the kingdom of the anti-Christ, in similar terms to Christian compromises with other religions. This had a resurgence in the seventies in part because of responses to liberal social engineering and the tumult over issues such as busing.

The problem with this line of thought is two fold. First, the argument rests on the assumption that we are to prevent the kingdom of anti-Christ from rising. The presentation of the anti-Christ is that this is a part of God’s plan, not man’s. Secondarily, the argument that interethnic marriage leads to the kingdom of Anti-Christ is similarly flawed; technically speaking the argument linking interethnic marriage to Anti-Christ is a “non-sequitar.”

  1. Christian Identity, Positive Christianity, and British Israelism

To those who are unaware, “positive Christianity” was a reinterpretation of Christianity by the early Nazi party (and for those who argue that the Nazis were a Christian regime, one must ask the question, if so why did they feel the need to change historic doctrines). Positive Christianity reinterpreted the gospels by means of liberal Christian theology into a racial struggle. British Israelism (and its American cousin Christian Identity) similarly reinterprets the Bible in racial terms, arguing that Whites are the true Israelites and are the only ones who can be saved. They completely ignore Paul’s discussions of the gentiles and Jews both being part of the Church.

These are racist ideologies that are actually PseudoChristian, and qualify as cults. Many atheists, however, do not appear to understand that these groups do not accept the historic tenants of the Christian faith.

  1. Kinism

Kinism is another modern take on segreationalism. Getting accurate information on Kinism is more difficult, many of their older, formulative blogs by kinists are now defunct. Current kinist blogs are unimpressive, often using ad hominem argumentation, and a certain degree of self deception (equality is not of God, but we aren’t racists, we are racialists). When I first checked a Kinist facebook page, I found a number of neo-nazi pictures and formulations, including a statement that equality was not of God. Later some of these had been cleansed, whether this is because they felt the neo-nazi symbols did not reflect their position and was due to infiltration by another element or whether this was for propagandistic reasons is something I do not claim to know. Kinism is rooted in an extreme version of reformed theology (connected to an idea called reconstructionism, which argues essentially that Christians should build a nation state operating under the Old Testament law, Paul’s statements to the contrary notwithstanding) and makes the argument that is similar to the discussion of the premillennial take on the tower of Babel.

What I think I can say reasonably about Kinism is that it may be a sugarcoating of actual racism as I defined it in my terms in part 1. The presence and toleration of neo-nazi symbols indicates that at least many kinists are racists. Much of what I said about Premillenial views would hold true.

Now that we have discussed the positions, we will move to the common arguments raised by Christian segregationists.

Christianity and Segregation 2: Segregation and the older generations

Last week, I started a series on segregation, beginning with definitions of terms. Atheists and other non-Christian groups will often take certain elements of American Church history as an argument that Christianity is intrinsically racist. There is a tendency to cherry pick church history (as well as American history) when it comes to discussions of racism by both Christians and non-believers; the very propagandistic nature of the discussion makes it difficult to address forthrightly.

Therefore to answer these charges, I will admit that some American Christians (though certainly not all) have supported segregation, some such as Kinists still do (other groups such as the “Christian Identity movement” should be considered cults since they deny important tenants of Christianity). My argument is that Christian segregationists are inconsistent monsters. To begin making that case, though, we need to understand something about the groups of Christian segregationists. Due to length, we will cover this in two articles.

  1. Outright racists

A number of those who claim to be segregationists historically were racists –that is they judged a persons capabilities and spirituality on the basis of their race. One of the major passages quoted by segregationists, ironically, though demonstrates the major problem with this viewpoint – Acts 17:22 states that God has made all ethnic groups of “one blood;” that is, we are all basically human. Racism is best viewed as a foreign infiltrator into Christianity from the surrounding culture (even in places where the surrounding culture is nominally Christian) and from other philosophies. In large part, the later defenders of segregation seem to have been influenced by social Darwinism, in part due to Christian alliances with the “old left.”[1] In most cases, they read various elements of racism into the Bible.

Sometimes, this is difficult for us to understand; but the Church was in a different time. The Klan is a good illustration of this distinction in the times, and how the surrounding culture influenced those within the Church. Christians of my generation generally think of the Klan in terms bomb-planting, white masked, murderous thugs of the fifties and sixties. While the Klan of the very late nineteenth and early twentieth century were the same barbaric monsters under their white sheets, they were also far more subtle. The Klan at that time were great propagandists – in fact the first propaganda film I am aware of was a Klan affiliated film, Birth of a Nation which was actually shown in the White house to an approving Woodrow Wilson. In both the North and the South the Klan wielded political power, and projected an image of being the thin line protecting society from rape, pillage and riots. This image was only broken when an important Klan leader in the state of Indiana was credibly accused of rape in the late twenties. Considering the pervasiveness in the surrounding culture, sadly it is not surprising (though no less dishonorable) that it infiltrated the church as well. We all can buy into the propaganda of our times.

  1. Legal Segregationists

Many have argued that segregation was simply the law, and Christians within the Churches whatever else they may have thought about the issue, felt they needed to abide by the rulings of secular authorities. They would argue the church is not an organization for social change, but spiritual and heart change. In a way, this makes sense – Paul’s argument about one’s social standing and ethnic ties is that they are unimportant in God’s ultimate reality, and he did not argue that Christians should form a nation state. We are enjoined to obey the secular powers (Rom 13:1-5) And yet, this argument might be cogent for discussing segregation within the American civil society, if it were not for segregation within the church itself. After all, throughout the church history we have assumed government authority extends only as far as the Church doors, it has no authority over our doctrine or practices.

In our next discussion we will refer to discussions of segregation in more recent memory and in the Kinist movement.

[1] By the old left, I mean thinkers such as Woodrow Wilson, Margaret Sanger and many of the supporters of Franklin Deleno Roosevelt in the American South.

Christianity and Segregation Part 1: Definitions of terms

Issues involving ethnicity and Christianity (along with Ethnicity and America) have been at a broiling point nearly seventy years. Recently, I had a miniature, informal debate on facebook in the “defending the Faith” group with a kinist (someone who advocates ethnic segregation in the name of Christianity), until he blocked me when, I assume, he was unable to answer the problems with his argument.

After another discussion on Kinism on the same page, I did some cursory examination of kinist and found a number had neo-nazi symbols. One of the real issues with neo-nazism today is that they are infiltrators – they have a difficult time winning adherents if they are open about their viewpoints (which tells us something about how much ethnic progress America has really made since the era of the old left’s open advocacy of Social Darwinism). As a result, many neo-nazi’s attach themselves to other causes in order to win adherents, and we as Christians need to be watchful when symptoms of such an anti-Christian ideology begins to appear within the church.

Kinists are an extremely small sect, but unfortunately this is not a new idea.

It is one of those arguments that many atheists raise against Christianity – but is this a reasonable attack on the faith? Furthermore, how should Christians respond to those who advocate segregation?
In order to successfully answer this question, I think we need to take two steps before actually addressing the arguments, and raising my counter argument. First, today I want to define terms. Sometimes in these discussions we use terms in different ways than others, and this can create confusion, so here are the definitions I will be using for this series.

Racism – Racism is the belief that one’s ethnic origins determines a person’s value (to God or society), beliefs, or standing before God. This is often related in modern times to Social Darwinism. Race can refer to one’s physical/genetic history/origins.

Social Darwinism – Social Darwinism is the theory that certain ethnic groups are better than others. Social Darwinism is related to the argument Darwin himself raised in his book, The Descent of Man, when he argued one of his two proofs that man was the result of an evolutionary process was the distinctions between ethnic groups, some of which were more advanced than others.

Ethnic group/ethnicity/ethnic – I am personally trying to remove the term “race” from my vocabulary, at least in terms of politics and ethnicity in my colloquial usage. I am attempting to replace it with references to one ethnicity because I believe the American concept of race is hopelessly muddled with racist ideas drawn from social darwinism.

Ethnicity is hard to define, one can argue that it refers to a common culture, a history of ones descent (ie where someone is from) or a combination of these with a common language and beliefs. To an extent, the way one will view ethnicity will depend on the academic discipline one is discussing – a cultural anthropologists will think of this in different terms than a linguist.

For our purposes, we will assume one’s ethnicity is the culture with which one defines oneself, and the cultural community that in turn accepts that person.

Segregation – The voluntary or involuntary separation between ethnic groups. Involuntary segregation enforces this by means of intimidation and the force of law. Voluntary segregation can occur for numerous reasons, including common languages and traditions, and to varying degrees. For example, many immigrants to the United States settled in communities due to the mother tongue they all spoke. Some Jews have a tendency to settle in groups around businesses that cater to Jewish dietary laws.

While some will consider it controversial, I will treat opposition to “interracial marriage” as a form of segregation.

Consistent/Inconsistent monsters – This is the terminology I’ve used since a comparison of varying moral arguments from atrocities. An inconsistent monster is someone who commits a monstrous act, but it is inconsistent with the worldview that person espouses. A consistent monster is someone who commits monstrous acts and those acts are consistent with his worldview – he or she is not a hypocrite, whatever else they may be.

Christianity – the historic Christian faith including the belief that the Bible is the infallible authority of faith and practice; it is accepting the basic essentials of Christianity. I am not including nominally Christian groups such as Hitler’s “Positive Christianity,” Neo-orthodoxy, etc.